Youth really does seem wasted on the young in CM Birkmeier’s drama about the end of a two year relationship. In Bloom starts slowly, but gets more lively after the separation. It makes me wish they’d ended it earlier and had some fun moving on.
Oh, to be young and in love. Well maybe not too young. I don’t have many fond memories of my post collegiate 20s, wandering about the city, dating, falling in love and out of it. I never had enough money (who does?), I spent too much of what I did have on beer and wondered when something might happen to change things. Well, I’d be lying if I said I had no fun at all, but In Bloom isn’t the kind of movie that is going to awaken those types of memories. Instead, it recalls the dead end feelings of the downscale life and the dumps that I found myself in far to often. Apparently life hasn’t changed too much.
In Bloom tells the story of Kurt (Kyle Wigent), a petty drug dealer, and Paul (Tanner Rittenhouse), a super market clerk, as their relationship comes to a close. I’m not certain how old either of them is. Maybe 22. If Kurt ever went to college, he’s dropped out to deal and smoke. Paul seems like the type who would be in college, but instead, his life revolves around Kyle and his job. Since there is a serial killer in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago where Paul lives, Paul would prefer that Kyle had an occupation that didn’t require him to be out alone at night, but he thinks he loves him too much to press that issue. When the film opens, they meet at a 12/21/12 apocalypse eve party for the first time after they split up during the summer. Kurt joins Paul on a couch. It’s a tense meeting. Paul really would rather not talk with Kurt, but he doesn’t move away either. What went wrong? Thank goodness for flashbacks.
Paul and Kurt may have been a cute couple when they first started dating a few years back, but they are in a little bit of a rut at the beginning of the flashback. Paul would like to go away together, Kurt is fine just drinking on the beach. Kurt is curious about a kid named Kevin (Adam Fane), but Paul probably wouldn’t be fine with that. The first half of In Bloom establishes them as a couple in the doldrums, which means the viewer should be prepared for a dull times with hints here and there of the roots of their dissatisfaction that are easily brushed aside to keep the relationship going.
If waiting around for a breakup we know is coming is a bit of a bore, more exciting events happen in the last half hour once the split starts in earnest. Paul and Kurt finally fight about Kevin and I think the opening salvo of that fight to the end of the picture saves the film. No, these aren’t the most passionate fights, where each says something to wound the other. But they are examples of a style of argument couples have. Paul claims he just wants Kurt to be honest about Kevin as he thinks not putting pressure in Kurt will keep him happy. Kurt will not tell the truth about what he is feeling to Paul, since he knows Paul won’t accept it. Both are lying in their own ways and so they part. Left on their own, their lives are actually more exciting to watch. Without Paul to anchor him, Kurt’s life quickly spirals of control. Without Kurt to drag him to bohemian parties, Paul ends up playing Go Fish at a birthday party with his creepy co-worker, Eddie (Jake Andrews), who makes a pass at him. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary, but at least we’re not forced to be stuck watching the young men fixed in place any longer.
No one In Bloom seems to be able to enjoy themselves too much without a hit or a shot, and there are very few moments of bliss to break up the monotonous cadence of one party and bong hit after another. It really is a sluggish life in Chicago that these young people are leading, even when Kurt thinks he is in the fast lane. If I find fault with writer-director CM Birkmeier’s script, its that his characters’ outlooks are too limited to be youthful. At their ages, at least someone in the movie should be harboring dreams and not just longing for an undefined “more.”
In the end, there isn’t much to In Bloom to make me want to recommend it. If there insight into love and relationships to be gained by watching young people break up for fairly standard reasons, I did not feel it. First-time director Birkmeier does and adequate job recreating the boys’ young urban social scene in which ubiquitous pot replaces the need to do anything. The sound quality and hand-held camera work point to indy film origins, but as far as underfunded first time projects go, production quality isn’t that bad. It was good enough that I’ll watch Birkmeier’s next film to see how he develops as a director. However, “could have been worse” isn’t enough for me to encourage you to add it to your queue.